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[January 2022]

How can we prevent children from pouring money into online game?

Sample Case

When checking smartphone usage history, I found expensive items. It seems that my elementary school child used one of our smartphones and spent money on a game app. Although I did not allow him to spend money online, he was encouraged by his friend to use mobile payment to play an online game for free. It was not necessary to enter a password to use the mobile payment. The payment proof email was not delivered. My son didn't think that it would cost money.

(inquiry by a man in his 30s about his elementary-age son)

Problems and Advice

In the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, online games have become popular entertainment while staying home. There has been a surge in troublesome cases where children spend much money on online games without parental permission.

In particular, when parents or grandparents allowed their children or grandchildren to use their smartphones, some children tend to use mobile payment by using the owner's account.

(1) Discuss family rules in paying for online games

It's often the case that it's free to download online game apps but it's not free to get in-game items. Discuss family rules in paying for online games. Keep money and credit card away from children so that children cannot find them easily.

(2) Use "parental control"

Smartphone apps and home game platforms have a function called "parental control". With use of parental control, parents and other carers can set the upper limit for children to use mobile payment.

(3) Confirm your accounts to prevent children from spending money online and find problems earlier

Before paying for an online game, a user is required to enter a platform account ID and a password. In case of smartphone, it is possible to use mobile payment*. Confirm the platform account and the mobile payment account. Set a password for payment. Set the option settings so that payment proof emails are sent to your main email address.

(4) In some cases, child's contract may not be invalidated

When a minor made an expensive contract without parental permission, it is possible in principle to invalidate the contract under the Civil Code in Japan. However, when a minor used a parent's account for mobile payment, it is difficult to prove that the purchase was made by the minor, and the contract may not be invalidated.

  1. * Mobile payment allows users to pay for goods and services by entering ID and password online with use of smartphone. Mobile payment amounts will be added to mobile phone charges, which will be billed monthly.